With the recent finalization of the Rafale deal with Dassault Aviation costing to the tune of Rs. 58,000 crore or 7.8 billion Euros, the Indian government had come in for some criticism on not having followed up on its poll promise of boosting indigenisation. In the run up to the 2014 elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had strongly advocated promoting Indigenisation once his government came to power. However with half of the govt’s tenure having already been over, the realization seems to have hit the govt, albeit late. India will soon accept bids to manufacture foreign single-engine fighters, the country’s top defense official disclosed. Though the agreements with foreign manufacturers will largely dictate such a deal and remain a tough nut to crack for the negotiators down the line.
The announcement came from Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, who said the decision supports the country’s Make In India initiative. The program aims to bolster indigenous government programs, including large-scale defense projects.
Parrikar’s announcement suggests the Indian air force is turning away from the Tejas, an Indian-made jet initially slated to replace the country’s aging fleet of MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft according to Defense News.
“We will submit a new acceptance of necessity proposal for new single-engine fighters to Ministry of Defense in the next four months, and will request to fast-pace this new program,” a senior Indian air force official said, adding the branch aims to build 200 new single-engine fighters in the country.
Lockheed Martin and Saab are expected to pitch the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Gripen, respectively.
Despite throwing the Tejas effort into doubt, Parrikar maintains the country is committed to procuring the jet. Per reports, the country’s navy will continue supporting the fighter’s development. However, the branch is also seeking a twin-engine jet. Parrikar adds the navy is eyeing the Dassault-made Rafale.
“The second line of single-engine requirement is also felt, for which we are thinking of using the strategic partnership route,” he said.
Either ways, now that the government is serious about indigenisation, it could be described as one of the single biggest step towards India’s long term development and progress.